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When it comes to church kitchens, the boundaries between casual, community and commercial use become blurred. In many cases, a church kitchen doesn’t need to follow the same strict rules as a restaurant, but it still needs to provide a safe, clean place to work. Yet as more churches opt to use their hall or communal space as a community café or venue, it’s even more important they keep standards to a professional level.

Your local health authority is always the best place to find out exactly what you need to do to get your kitchen up to scratch, but if you’re in the process of renovating, it’s important to keep guidelines in mind to make sure the work complies; if the health authority finds problems after work has finished, it can be time consuming and costly.

At Steelplan, our team have extensive experience fitting church kitchens, and can advise on what Health & Safety issues need to be considered during the design process and throughout installation.

Here are a few key Health & Safety essentials we always advise our clients to bear in mind when investing in a new church kitchen:

Will food be handled on the premises for five days or more for any five consecutive weeks? If it will, you’ll need to register with your local Borough or Council’s Environmental Health Department. However, just to make things complicated, there are exceptions to this rule: speak to your local council to find out more.

There are some materials that are a no-go when it comes to commercial or semi-commercial kitchens. Cabinets and countertops that are fine in a domestic set-up – such as wood, MDF and certain types of laminate – can’t withstand regular use. They just don’t clean as thoroughly, absorbing liquid and bacteria over time, and this is something that a local health authority will consider during inspections.

If you’re investing in order to open your kitchen up to the public, opt for a hard wearing steel shell and food preparation areas; you can always combine these with more domestic style materials if it suits your church. Speak to a Steelplan consultant to discuss the best solution for you.

Obviously any kitchen has to be kept clean, but in a semi-commercial set up, there are thorough protocols that need to be put in place. It’s also important that the build and layout of the kitchen takes hygiene into consideration. Dirt and dust traps, like visible joints in laminate counters, should be avoided, as should gaps between floor and doors (church mice make for lovely children’s stories, but aren’t so great scurrying underneath your kitchen cabinets).

Layout also plays an important role in kitchen safety. Setting up a kitchen that can be used safely by more than one person at a time can be more complicated than you might think; busy areas should be spaced apart, hot handling areas should be away from the main thoroughfare, and your dishwasher should be able to be unloaded comfortably. The easier the layout is to use, the easier it will be for everyone to follow the Health & Safety rules.

If people will be using the kitchen to make food to sell, you have to make sure that cooking appliances are working as they are supposed to. If you’ve had your range since 1985 and it takes a bit longer than it used to cook a chicken, it’s probably time to get a new one. You might know its little quirks, but someone hiring the space for a party might not. Food poisoning does not usually create the happiest memories of a family shindig, and it’s a serious matter when it comes to your Health & Safety inspection. There are some flexible and long lasting options available: a Steelplan consultant can help you choose what’s right for you.

If you’re planning a new kitchen for your church, Steelplan Kitchens offer a free consultation and design process to help you get the best solution for your church. Call us on 0844 809 9186.

Next month, we take a look at how the Disability Discrimination Act could affect your church kitchen, and what you need to consider to make your kitchen a welcoming, accessible space for all.

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